For the first time since Vegas hoisted the Stanley Cup on June 13, Golden Knights players will step on the ice to play a hockey game against players from another team.
Yeah, that’s a stretch, but hey, real hockey is so close, just let me get away with this one.
Tonight is the first of three games for the Golden Knights at this year’s Rookie Faceoff taking place in Vegas and Henderson. VGK’s rookies will take on the Anaheim Ducks tonight and the San Jose Sharks tomorrow at the Dollar Loan Center, and the Colorado Avalanche on Monday at City National Arena.
Vegas’ roster includes 17 draft picks including 1st rounder Brendan Brisson and 2nd round picks Matyas Sapovaliv and Daniil Chayka. Here’s what I’m hoping to see from the team this weekend.
Time for the Jakubs to really make a name for themselves
In the 2021 Draft the Golden Knights used back to back selections in the 4th round on players with the first name Jakub. The first Jakub picked was Jakub Brabenec from Czechia. He showed out well in his first few camps with the Golden Knights but was a bit underwhelming in Development Camp this summer. The other Jakub, Jakub Demek has not had a ton of time on the ice in Las Vegas. He has missed several camps with injury including this summer’s Dev Camp. However, when he has been on the ice either in the WHL or for Team Slovakia, he’s been excellent. The powerful forward should finally get a real chance to assert himself in a VGK jersey and it could catapult him up the prospect list. A point-per-game is the minimum expectation for both Jakubs in these three games.
It’s been an eventful year for the 19-year-old 4th round pick. After impressing during his time wearing a VGK sweater both in the summer and fall, Brabenec headed back to the QMJHL where he continued producing both goals and assists. He was traded to the Sherbrooke Phoenix where he has picked up his pace even more. But, the most impressive portion of Brabenec’s year was the trip to World Juniors. He was excellent the entire tournament, one of Czechia’s most influential offensive players. He averaged a point per game and made plays against the biggest teams and players in the tournament. He sees the game at the speed necessary to play at the next level.
More on Brabenec
8/16/22 – Ranking: 4 – The fastest riser in the rankings, Brabenec finished off an excellent season in the QMJHL and then impressed at Development Camp. It’s a shame he didn’t go to World Juniors because he could have easily turned heads. There’s really not much to dislike about his game. He’s an excellent passer, he has a knack for being in the right place around the blue paint, and he forechecks with ferocity. He’s definitely not ready for the NHL, maybe not even the AHL, but the future is bright.
2/23/22 – Ranking: 10 – In his first season in North America, Brabenec is lighting it up with one of the league’s best teams. He’s tallied 28 assists in 34 games and added 12 goals too. Plus, he was named to the Czechia team at World Juniors where he looked decent in his appearance. He still has a long way to go as he’s still very young, but the ceiling on Brabenec now is much higher than it was a year ago.
8/7/21 – Ranking: 25 – One of the youngest players in the entire Draft, Brabenec has plenty of time to develop and move up this list. He’s done well internationally but has been underwhelming in the Czech league. He’s expected to be much more of a defensive center than anything else though.
Brisson’s first full year as a professional has not gone the way he and the Golden Knights wished. He’s not scoring at the pace expected for a 1st round pick sniper, and his physical game hasn’t matched the level of the AHL level to this point. 19 points including seven goals simply isn’t good enough in 37 AHL games. He still has the elite shot, and he still has some high-end vision with the puck, but there still needs to be quite a bit of improvement if he wants to become the player the Golden Knights expected when they picked him 29th overall.
More on Brisson
8/16/22 – Ranking: 2 – It would have been great to have seen more out of Brisson at Development Camp. He didn’t score a goal in the scrimmages and aside from his well-known elite one-timer, he didn’t pop as the only 1st round pick on the ice. Often times players aren’t quite themselves in the summer, especially after a long season. So it’s possible he comes into Rookie Camp, lights it up, and claims a spot. But as of right now, he still appears to need some professional seasoning in the AHL.
2/23/22 – Ranking: 1 – Brisson has shot up this chart in large part due to his stellar sophomore season at Michigan but also his inclusion and impact on Team USA at the Olympics. Brisson continues to be dangerous on the power play, and his hockey sense has started to shine through. He’s not afraid to stick his nose into traffic to grab a loose puck and he has a good knack for where loose pucks are going to end up. When chaos happens, Brisson is usually there to clean it up. He continues to look like a bonafide NHL prospect with a ceiling in the top six.
8/7/21 – Ranking: 4 – Brisson had a solid freshman season at Michigan scoring 10 goals and adding 21 points in 24 games. He’s a power play weapon and will continue to be a point producer at the NCAA level this season. However, with Michigan’s stacked lineup, his playing time will be interesting to monitor. Michigan had four of the top five picks in the 2021 Draft and all are expected to be on the roster this year. As a late 1st round pick from the year prior, Brisson should be able to hold down a permanent spot, but we’re definitely going to learn a lot about him as to where coach Mel Pearson has him in that stacked lineup.
2/3/21 – Ranking: 3 – Brisson’s selection to the eventual gold medal-winning Team USA at the World Juniors was incredibly impressive considering how stacked that team was. He offers something unlike anything we’ve seen from a VGK prospect to this point and that’s an unbelievable shot. He loves to sit in the circle on the power play and rip shots past goalies who know it’s coming and still can’t stop it. He definitely has a ways to go in regards to strength and experience and the offensive play can improve in other areas aside from the shot, but there’s no doubt Brisson has an exciting future.
As he’s set to hit his 19th birthday tomorrow, Sapovaliv has soared up the list. This actually has a lot more to do with others dropping, but Matyas has done everything you can ask for in his first season post-draft. He posted seven assists in seven games at World Juniors and was utilized as a defensive specialist as well. He’s also posting strong numbers in the OHL with Saginaw. His forechecking continues to be a strong suit and his ability to read the game as a defensive center is strong. He certainly looks like he has an NHL future.
More on Sapovaliv
8/16/22 – Ranking: 11 – The concern during the draft on Sapovaliv was his skating. At Development Camp, it was not notably poor which is a good sign having stepped on the Vegas ice just days after being drafted. He’s a strong forechecker and his awareness in the defensive and neutral zones is great. He potted a goal at World Juniors, but there were definitely some signs that he was struggling to keep up as the tournament went along. He’s a real boom or bust type prospect, and it’s not hard to see some of the characteristics that make VGK believe he’ll boom.
**To view the rest of the SinBin Prospect Rankings, click here.**
Patera has been excellent in the Silver Knights’ goal despite playing behind one of the worst teams in the AHL. He’s been clearly better than NHL veteran Michael Hutchinson and at times he’s even looked better than another NHLer, Laurent Brossoit. VGK’s future between the pipes is very cloudy heading into next year, there’s a real chance Patera inserts himself into that picture.
More on Patera
8/16/22 – Ranking: 2 – Patera is going to get a shot to state his case in camp, then preseason, and then early in the regular season likely at the AHL level. With the VGK goalie room either inexperienced and banged up, opportunity is there for the taking for everyone wants to take it. Patera has shown out well in some chances and not as well in others.
2/23/22 – Ranking: 2 – When given the chance, Patera has looked every bit an AHL caliber goalie, and I mean that in a good way. Despite bouncing between the AHL and ECHL this season, he’s been strong when he’s been in the net in either Henderson or Fort Wayne. It’s incredibly close between he and Ferguson, but they are both miles behind Thompson.
8/7/21 – Ranking: 2 – It was definitely good to see Patera getting plenty of time with the NHLers at the end of the season on the taxi squad. His AHL numbers were a bit of a mess however as he went 2-4-0 on a team that won the division. It’ll be interesting to see if he wins the job as the backup in Henderson this season. There will be a battle to back up Thompson, and Ferguson absolutely might win it.
2/3/21 – Ranking: 3 I probably dock players for injuries more than I should, but it’s just tough to keep guys up in the rankings when they aren’t healthy. Value certainly has dropped on Patera as he was likely to compete for the backup AHL job and now he’s on the sideline watching Ferguson and Thompson compete for it. His injury isn’t expected to be too long-term, but every day missed hurts.
4/16/20 – Patera had a masterful year in the WHL playing for his NHL GM’s team. He was easily the best goalie in the league and showed the promise that had him as the second goalie ever selected by the Golden Knights. Now it’s time for Patera to really face some challenges. He’ll likely sign a contract and end up in the ECHL where he’ll have to compete for a starting role. He went from #4 to #1 in these rankings in a short time, which proves just how close this group of goalies still is.
11/16/19 – Patera has found himself in a bit of a battle just for playing time in Brandon. He has started just eight games, while draft eligible Ethan Kruger has seen the nets 14 times. Patera’s stats are better, but playing time is a good indicator of form in Canadian juniors.
7/5/19 -He dropped down to 4th on the list last time due to a shoddy performance at World Juniors. He stays at #4 now because the guys in front of him all look very good. As a whole the goaltenders had their best camp yet, with all four of them looking good for the most part. Patera definitely seems to be progressing and is starting to track the puck a bit better than he had the previous times we’ve seen him. I was down on the goalie prospects in the system, but after doing this exercise again, ranking Patera 4th, and realizing how good he was in camp, the depth in the system actually looks pretty good.
1/8/19 – Patera is the only one of the Golden Knights goalie prospects to have made a World Junior roster. Unfortunately, he wasn’t very good while playing with the Czech team. He had a miserable game the one he was in the net and even had the blooper of the tourney tripping while trying to get back to the net. His numbers in Brandon have been pretty good though, so don’t go crazy. These are 19-year-old goalies we are talking about, if any of them pan out it would be amazing.
9/12/18 – Despite having the best stat line of any of the three goalies, he was the least impressive. It may have a lot to do with the fact that the Kings rookies did not generate much offense, but Patera seemed to lose track of the puck quite a bit. It’s important to note though that the gap between #1 to #4 is fairly slim here. Couple good periods and Patera could be first.
7/28/18 – Patera was selected by the Brandon Wheat Kings in the CHL Import Draft and is looking forward to trying his hand against better competition this season. He made a couple of incredible reactionary saves during 2018 Development Camp, one in particular that still boggles the mind as to how he kept the puck out. He seems to have quick reflexes and is a fairly large guy for his age.
**To view the rest of the SinBin Prospect Rankings, click here.**
It’s that time of year again. Well, now that the hockey schedule is back to normal.
Christmas time means World Juniors and this year’s tournament features plenty of intrigue for Golden Knights fans. Four VGK prospects are set to represent their countries in the 2023 edition of the IIHF World Junior Championships, and all four should play a big role for their respective teams.
Zach Dean Canada
Vegas’ most recent 1st round pick has had a bit of a rocky road since being selected 30th overall in 2021. He took an injury early in Development Camp this summer which left us once again not getting to see much of him in a setting amongst his peers.
However, since he’s returned back to Gatineau he’s doing what you’d hope any 1st round pick would do. Dean has tallied 17 goals and racked up 18 assists in 27 games in the QMJHL and is certainly one of the best players on a pretty good team.
Dean was on the extended roster ahead of the last edition of this tournament but did not make the final roster. Now, he’s expected to play a fairly significant role as a bottom-six forward and penalty killer.
(Photo Credit: Rob Schneidmiller, Ice Time Southwest)
Jakub Brabenec Czechia
One of the standouts from Development Camp this summer, the 19-year-old crafty winger will be an important offensive option for the Czechs. Brabenec has a knack for the net but is also a stellar passer of the puck. His numbers have slipped a bit this season in Charlottetown but a lot of that likely has to do with the overall strength of the team more so than his play.
Brabenec should play high up the Czech lineup and will be a key piece to the power play.
Matyas Sapovaliv Czechia
Also playing for the Czechs is the Golden Knights’ highest pick in the most recent draft. Sapovaliv was excellent in the summer edition of World Juniors and he’s continued that strong play posting a point per game in the OHL this season.
Sapovaliv’s game is much more defensive-minded so points are not always going to come the way he plays. Expect the same in this tournament on a Czech team that has quite a bit of offensive talent. However, Matyas will likely find himself playing many of the tough minutes and taking on some of the hardest matchups. Plus, he’ll likely be a key penalty killer.
Team Czechia takes on Canada in the first game for each team, on December 26th.
Carl Lindbom Sweden
Lindbom made Team Sweden’s roster at the last edition of the tournament but didn’t see a second of action. That’s not expected to be the case this time as he heads into the tournament as the presumptive starter. Lindbom has posted excellent numbers this season in Sweden’s 2nd league, HockeyAllsvenskan.
He’s touting a 15-6-0 record with four shutouts, a 1.76 goals against average, and a .936 save percentage. He’s on pace to have one of the best seasons as a U20 in that league’s history.
This will be a new experience for Golden Knights fans as VGK have never had a goalie prospect actually play consistently at World Juniors. A few Golden Knights goalie prospects have made their respective teams but never has one been handed the reigns as the starter to begin the tournament. Lindbom is expected to be between the pipes as Team Sweden open the tournament on December 26th against Austria.
(Photo Credit: Rob Schneidmiller, Ice Time Southwest)
The Golden Knights’ prospect pool has been starting to look a little barren over the course of the last few seasons. With the departures of multiple 1st round picks from the first five drafts and a host of players getting their opportunity in the NHL this season, there’s not a ton to get excited about.
However, two recent middle-round prospects are teammates and are both tearing up the QMJHL. 3rd round pick in 2020 Lukas Cormier and 4th round pick in 2021 Jakub Brabenec each had standout regular seasons for the Charlottetown Islanders and they are continuing on the success in the Q’s playoffs.
This is the second consecutive year Cormier has claimed the Émile-Bouchard Trophy becoming the first player in league history to do so. The award’s history is full of standout NHL defensemen including Kris Letang, Thomas Chabot, Sam Girard, David Savard, and Keith Yandle.
The rookie awards won by Brabenec come with impressive alumni too. Sidney Crosby, Jakub Voracek, Nico Hischier, Alexis Lafreniere, and Nikolaj Ehlers have all claimed both of the awards in their first seasons in the QMJHL also. Former VGK waiver claim Valentin Zykov also won both awards back in 2012-13.
The smooth-skating offensive defenseman Cormier once again was a point-grabbing machine this season amassing 81 in 62 regular season games. He took a major step forward in the goal-scoring department this year more than doubling his career-high with 33 goals. In the playoffs, Cormier has not slowed down a bit tacking on four more goals and 12 points in nine postseason games.
Meanwhile, the high-IQ, creative, and skinny Brabenec, playing in his first season in North America, surpassed the point-per-game mark by tallying 64 in 58 contests. Like Cormier, his success has continued on into the playoffs where he has 10 assists in the Islanders’ nine games.
The Charlottetown Islanders currently lead their semifinal series 2-1 over the Sherbrooke Phoenix with Game 4 coming up tonight at 4 PM. You can stream the game live using the CHL’s official streaming site.
If Cormier and Brabanec’s Islanders win tonight or Wednesday, they’ll head to the QMJHL finals where they can earn a trip to this year’s Memorial Cup in late June.
After selecting Zach Dean with the 30th overall pick in the 1st round, the Golden Knights entered Day 2 with five picks. Here’s a quick rundown of what we know about each player selected by the Golden Knights in the 2021 NHL Draft.